Mike Bidlo: Art About Art

May 9, 2017

Appropriation artist Mike Bidlo (b. 1953) is best known for his “Masterpieces Series,” for which he produced precise replicas of canonical works by modernist masters. Bidlo’s homages deliberately emulate the works of those mythologized as artistic geniuses, such as Andy Warhol, Marcel Duchamp, and Pablo Picasso. Bidlo completed his BFA at the University of Illinois in 1973, and received his MFA from Southern Illinois University, Carbondale in 1975. He moved to New York in 1982, where he quickly gained notoriety for recreating the moment when Jackson Pollock urinated in Peggy Guggenheim’s fireplace at his first solo exhibition, “Jack the Dripper at Peg’s Place” at PS1.

Los Angeles Modern Auctions (LAMA)

Lot 59, Mike Bidlo, Not Brancusi, 1984-1985
May 21, 2017 Modern Art & Design Auction

Bidlo works from reproductions of the original pieces and takes care to use identical dimensions. This gesture serves to dismantle the aura of the artwork by showing how works of ‘genius’ can be remade. In an interview the artist said, “It has […] to do with a toppling of the gods—especially of changing my relationship to them. In a sense it deals more explicitly with demystification and empowerment.” Bidlo has been associated with other postmodern conceptual artists like Sherrie Levine, who also questions the notion of authenticity and value, authorship and creativity. Through the use of contextualizing devices such as titles and artist signatures, Bidlo makes plain that these are new versions of iconic art works.

Not Brancusi (1985) mimics Constantin Brancusi’s famed marble sculpture Mademoiselle Pogany, in this case carved from wood, not stone. In 1986, he produced approximately 100 plaster cast reproductions of the same Brancusi work. The original sculpture proved controversial at its unveiling in 1912, where it was condemned and celebrated in equal measure for its radical re-imagining of the human figure. By reproducing one of Brancusi’s most seminal sculptures in a new context and in a new time, Bidlo transforms our understanding of the earlier work. Not Brancusi also serves as a reminder that many of us experience the ‘originals’ via reproductions, whether in books or online. For Bidlo, the only way to create in today’s image-saturated multimedia culture is to co-opt the plethora of images that already exist. Bidlo demonstrates that appropriation is a creative process, revealing unexpected new meaning and insights.

Lot Information:

Lot 59
Mike Bidlo
Not Brancusi
Stamped “B”
17″ x 9″ x 9″
Literature: Masterpieces: Mike Bidlo. R. Rosenblum. 1989. N.pag. for similar example illustrated.
Estimate: $4,000-$6,000

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